For decades, children worldwide have been brought up reading books by Enid Blyton. Long before J.K. Rowling came along, Blyton's work encouraged millions of children to develop a love of reading with magical and mysterious stories ranging from the Enchanted Wood series to the Famous Five, Secret Seven, and Noddy.
However, Blyton, whose books have been bestsellers since the 1920s, has become the latest target of the cancel culture that has become so prevalent over the past year. In a review of her Blue Plaque, English Heritage has linked her work to racism and xenophobia. This comes after English Heritage promised to review all plaques relating to contested figures following last year's Black Lives Matter protests.
Lack of literary merit
In addition to criticising Blyton’s work for racism and xenophobia, English Heritage also stated it lacked literary merit. However, these books received very little criticism when they were first released, which resulted in the author becoming a global bestseller.
Blyton, who died in 1968, sold hundreds of millions of copies of her books worldwide, and they were translated into 90 languages. Even today, she remains in the top 20 bestselling children's authors of the past decade. In 2014 her Famous Five books were voted the most popular choice among parents for their children despite competition such as Harry Potter.
On an update on its website, English Heritage stated, "Blyton's work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit.” It added, “In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was 'a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer'".
However, it did acknowledge that despite the charges, the author's work had played a vital role in encouraging generations of children to read.
Causing controversy for years
The Blue Plaque to commemorate the author was erected by English Heritage in 1997 at Blyton’s former home in Kingston Upon Thames.
Blyton's work has been at the centre of increasing controversy for years due to characters such as a black doll called ‘Sambo’ whose owner would not accept him unless his ‘ugly black face’ was washed clean by the rain. Her Noddy series also frequented the term ‘golliwogs,’ which has since been changed to ‘goblins’ in more recent editions of her work.
The BLM protests that took place last year triggered a review of all blue plaques that were linked to those whose actions were seen as negative in today’s society.
What do you think about cancel culture? Is it time for Enid Blyton’s works to be consigned to history?